December 17, 2009 -- Driving from Delhi to Jaipur on the Delhi-Jaipur highway. The new 10-lane Gurgaon highway, opened a year back, is already at capacity. The first 30-miles are stop and go traffic through the industrial suburbs of Delhi. The Maruti-Suzuki car factories and Hero-Honda motorcycle factories and their parasitic ecosystem for auto parts manufactures ring the highway. Commercial trucks make up two thirds of the vehicles on the road, many of them dilapidated and overloaded, lumbering along at fifteen-twenty miles and hour. There is a murky haze over the highway and the industries we are passing by and the winter sun feels distant. The trucks have grizzled, unkempt drivers, many with a navigator/helper riding shotgun with his arm hanging out waving on overtaking vehicles, who blast their horns for added caution. Like in America, these trucks are the blood and the roads the arteries of the economy. Unlike America, but like many things in India, they are inefficient, supported by abundant, therefore low cost, labor.
I am back in India after ten months, ostensibly attending the TiE charter member retreat and the annual TiECON India conference (dubbed the TiE Entrepreneurial Summit or TES), this time in Mumbai. The theme of the conference is Jugaad, a very Indian management concept, or lack thereof. Jugaad means to cobble together a solution to a problem quickly and with no planning and getting around any obstacles such as government corruption. Markets around the world are changing more rapidly, driven by labor mobility, online commerce and technology. Planned economies and business culture in places like Japan, Germany are at a disadvantage. India perhaps has an advantage with its Jugaad culture in supplying to fast changing markets. Of course in markets such as infrastructure, Jugaad is a disaster and that is evident in India.
This Jugaad management style that Indians, including Indian-American entrepreneurs, employ can be a advantageous in fast changing or shall we say chaotic environments. The dot com era was such a period and Indian-American entrepreneurs, especially in Silicon Valley, thrived. A similar environment exists in India today, with rapid urbanization, a growing middle class that wants all the same products and services Americans are used to. India has bounced back from the recession in less than a year, with record car sales in November. Annualized GDP growth dipped to 6% at the depth of the recession but is back to over 8%. Unlike China, this growth is driven by domestic consumption, not exports or government spending on infrastructure. Entrepreneurship is thriving in India. TES has 2,000 people registered. By comparison TiECON in Silicon Valley, the largest gathering of entrepreneurs in the US, had 4.000 registrants in May 2009 and TiECON East in Boston had 800.